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sexual harassment and abuse in sport


What is sexual harassment and abuse?

- Sexual harassment and abuse are forms of sex discrimination. They include unwanted, groomed or forced involvement in sexual behaviour, from use of offensive stereotypes based on your gender (gender harassment [see example below]) to sexual jokes, threats, intimidation, approaches or actions of a sexual nature
- In settings where your rights are not acknowledged, or where you are not valued as an individual, it is more likely that sexual harassment and abuse will happen

How does sexual harassment and abuse occur?

 - In most cases, athletes know if they are being sexually harassed and abused because it is humiliating and offensive – in other words it is unwanted
 - But sometimes the affected athletes do not recognize what is happening to them because they become trapped by the abuser through a process called ‘grooming’ 

Myths about Sexual Abuse in Sport  


Stages of grooming/The grooming process in sport

Targetting a potential victim

·      observing which athlete is vulnerable
·      finding occasions to test her out for secrecy and reliability
·      checking out her credentials as a susceptible person
·      striking up a friendship
·      being nice  

Building trust and friendship

 

·      making her feel special
·      giving gifts and rewards
·      spending time together
·      listening
·      being consistent
·      setting down basic conditions for each meeting
·      beginning to bargain “You have to do this, because I have done that”

Developing isolation and control; building loyalty

·      refusing the child access to significant others and or demeaning any  previous sources of friendship and support
·      restricting access to or reliance on parents and carers and non-sport peers
·      being inconsistent, building up hopes and joy one moment and then punishing the next to increase the child’s desperation for attention
·      checking the child’s commitment through questioning and setting small tests

Initiation of  sexual abuse and securing secrecy

·      gradual incursion into ambiguous sexual boundaries
·      if athlete objects saying “you didn’t mind last time” to entrap her
·      invoking co-operation “you owe me/it’s the least you can do”
·      invoking guilt “now look what you’ve done”
·      offering protection “I won’t tell/it’s our little secret”
·      discrediting the victim so she has no choice but to remain “others won’t understand” or “nobody will believe you”
·      threatening the victim “if you tell anyone I’ll hurt you/tell others what you’ve done/hurt someone you care about/drop you from the team…"

Source: Brackenridge, C.H. (2001) Spoilsports: Understanding and preventing sexual exploitation in sport. London: Routledge, p. 35. 


How do athletes respond to sexual harassment and abuse?
- When sexual abuse happens, athletes might feel like they’re the only ones experiencing it – but this is actually not true and others may be feeling the same as you

- Respect is a right (why we must prevent SHA)


Why does respect matter?

- Because you have rights under the UN Convention on Human Rights
- You also have rights under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Rights of the child - UNICEF rights explanation

UNICEF’s Mission: For all the world’s children - Health, Education, Equality, Protection  

UNICEF is mandated by the UN General Assembly to advocate for the protection of children’s rights, to help meet their basic needs and to expand their opportunities to reach their full potential.
 
It is guided by the Convention on the Rights of the Child and strives to establish children’s rights and enduring ethical principles and international standards of behaviour towards children.  
See the international helplines


Some of these are rights to:
 
 - be treated fairly and equally
 - have a say and be listened to
 - your privacy protected
 - health and safety
 - protection from sexual harassment and abuse

 

What can you expect your sport organization to do to keep you safe?

Download IOC SHA Consensus Statement list of recommendations

Download CPSU page about organisational responsibilities

10 top tips for keeping safe and gaining respect  :

    1. Respect the rights of both the athletes and yourself
    2. Know your rights and responsibilities
    3. Inform yourself of the signs of sexual harassment and abuse
    4. Look out for and respond to these signs among your team
    5. If you have any concerns talk with your team chaperone or welfare officer or call a helpline
    6. Do not ask an athlete to go alone with you anywhere
    7. Do not pressure or encourage an athlete to doing anything sexual
    8. Challenge others if they behave inappropriately
    9. Be a good model for others to follow
    10. Have fun with your team and fellow coaches within sensible limits

References :

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